The 10 Immutable Laws of Governmental Integrity

For more than 10 years, I’ve used Microsoft’s 10 Immutable Laws of Security as a “debate ender”. The 10 Immutable Laws is an article that can help unlock some simple security fundamentals in a manner easily digested by those new to security.

I’ve been getting more and more irritated with the people “running” my government lately. I say “running” because enough of us vote for these people to get them in to federal, state, and local offices. But once they are in office, too many of these people are more concerned with getting reelected and building up their retirement than actually maintaining a sound democracy driven by the public interests of American citizens and the interests of future generations of American citizens. No, it’s all about the dollar. In many ways, we no longer live in a democracy, we live in a corpocracy, where dollars, not a representative democracy of American citizens, decide how a career politician (what a horribly toxic term) votes, and what legislation they will introduce, support, or knowingly try to kill to keep the money flowing their way.

Below, I’ve taken Microsoft’s 10 immutable laws of security, and modified them to address governmental integrity instead. I believe I’ve left much of the spirit from the original thesis in place.

The below list isn’t how government should function. But this is how it largely does function. We have a handful of noble, democracy-driven politicians left, but they are rare. These problems are also not isolated to one political party or the other, and they aren’t isolated to America either. Any time human beings in leadership positions let money and power, not freedom and the Constitution, rule their mind and their decisions, our republic is at risk. This corruption tends to infect broad swaths of our government, regardless of political party affiliation (or independence from any political party).

The 10 Immutable Laws of Governmental Integrity

Law #1: If a corporation or organization can persuade your legislator to create, promote, rally for, and pass legislation, it’s not your government anymore.

As we have recently seen with SOPA, corporate interests can buy and sell the interests of legislators who put their own re-election and financial interests ahead of the interests of American citizens at large. While we can stand up, fight, and sometimes win when this occurs, it is important to vote for politicians who repeatedly promise, and demonstrate, self-sacrifice over their own financial betterment. Currently legislation is all too often about short-term profit to prop up industries that instead hurts all of us with their short-term thinking.

Law #2: If a corporation or organization can modify your government to steer public policy to suit their needs, not the needs of the democracy at large, it’s not your government anymore.

This has been a problem forever, but I believe the last 30 years or so have been crucial to this collapse. From laws discarding environmental protections in order to enable the rabid drilling of natural gas wells that emit toxic fumes into the air and toxic chemicals into the water, to a lack of laws governing genetic modification of the innumerable components of foods, regulation of livestock, agriculture, and dairy, “policy makers” put in at the behest of industrialists have spun policy to suit their needs, not the needs of Americans at large. Look no further than the Transportation Security Administration buying devices lobbied in for sale by the former head of the TSA. Devices that irradiate Americans (which cannot even detect the security threat vector they were bought to help protect against). The list goes on and on. Corporate interests will buy and sell government positioning with corrupt elected officials to get the equipment they want to sell bought, the war fought that they want to continue, or the laws passed that enable them to destroy the environment for future generations. Destruction long-term doesn’t matter if it means a dollar now. This is a problem across industries, and across political parties. It isn’t just agriculture, medicine and food, but those are hugely troubling areas where our government is willing to turn a blind eye for short-term profits.

Law #3: If a corporation or organization has unrestricted financial access to your legislative, judicial, or executive branches, it’s not your government anymore.

Even with legislation designed to prevent it, the revolving door that separates the legislative branch from K Street spins faster and faster, with money flowing back and forth. Unqualified politicians get elected because they tell industrialists they’ll vote for what the industrialists want, and donations from wealthy executives (and corporations, thanks to Citizens United). They get re-elected based upon the same lies to citizens, and promises to lobbyists. Through funding from lobbyists to legislators, corporations get the legislation they want introduced and often passed, and can often kill legislation that works against the best interests of American citizens, or future generations on this planet. The legislative branch is the most apparent – but it’s not the only branch with a troubling record here.

Law #4: If you allow a corporation or organization to put industry veterans into governmental positions, it’s not your government anymore.

Surely you’ve seen the pretty Venn diagrams generated recently that visualize the inbreeding from Monsanto to our government and back, or from Goldman Sachs into the federal government and back. Corporations pay good money to get legislators and executives elected, and continue to pay good money to ensure that public policy from federal agencies serves their interest, not necessarily the best interest of American citizens as a whole (or again, future generations). For many of the people in these positions, it’s about making money for themselves, and keeping their own jobs – not about creating public policy that serves the best interest of the planet and future generations. Short-term gain, long-term pain. It is toxic.

Law #5: Voter apathy kills a strong democracy.

Unfortunately, the corpocracy “machine” has been working so well that many American citizens simply feel apathetic, and either don’t participate, or do so half-heartedly, which is toxic. “My vote doesn’t matter” – which is just slightly worse than “I voted along party lines” is a powerful demotivator to the American voter. Citizens all too easily give up the right to vote, stop fighting for candidates who aren’t corrupt and won’t sell us all out simply to ensure they can get re-elected and retire from government more wealthy than they went in. Now, we see legislators across this country trying to prevent voting by American Citizens that would oppose the interests of these legislators – under the basis of laws to fight (undemonstrable) voter fraud or illegal immigration. Americans need to get out, learn their candidates early, understand how they stand on the issues and the ethics that these individuals have lived before they ran for office. Americans also need to stop voting for a person just because of what an adversary’s ad said on TV or radio. Campaign ads are drivel. They are crap. They are paid for by special interests to make you think just enough to make a decision, but not think enough to make an informed decision. Know your candidates based on how they stand – not based on what the idiot box tells you about them, or about their opponent.

Law #6: A government is only as democratic as the leader has integrity.

If the executive in charge of your country says they will veto an issue, and then when faced with that issue, reverses charge and says, “we’ll undo it later”, you likely have an integrity problem. If the executive pushes for, and passes, legislation tearing away Constitutionally-based freedoms, you likely have an integrity problem. Laws, especially in this politically heated federal legislature, are incredibly hard to pass if they don’t suit lobbyist’s interests and help ensure legislators can get re-elected and grow (or keep) their legislative majority. A law that is passed is very hard to reverse. Regardless of their party affiliation, question an executive who is willing to pave over the Constitution and the freedoms that true patriots fought over two centuries ago. Especially if those freedoms are lost in the name of fighting an unwinnable, unending, “war on terror”.

Law #7: Laws are only as democratic as those enforcing them.

Is a government that imprisons an American citizen for years without a trial, without charging him with a crime a democracy? Not in my book. Is a government that silently imprisons someone who isn’t an American citizen, forever, without trial, a democracy? Not in my book. Our nation was founded upon the premise of trying to be be better than the places most of our ancestors came from in terms of freedom and integrity. We are failing.

Law #8: Voting for a politician because they agree on a single issue with you is only marginally better than not voting at all.

If all you know about a politician is that they “support issue X” and you also “support issue X”, or “he’s in the same party I always vote for”, please – stay home and don’t vote. Either get to know how candidates really feel about issues that matter, and understand their motivation and integrity, or don’t vote. Voting for a candidate who knows how to pander to you by saying they support what you support to the point you support them is no different than giving in to simple high school peer pressure. The candidate you voted for based on them “supporting issue X” disagrees with you on another issue. It could be welfare, it could be a corporate tax holiday. It might be term limits, it might be rules on campaign finance reform. But they disagree with you on something. You need to know what that is – because what they disagree with you on is infinitely more important than the issue or two they do agree with you on. In the end, elected officials who are voted in based purely on their stance aligned “with party lines” will, like the movie War Games mentioned above, either end up destroying everything in a legislative pissing contest with their opposition, or simply take the money offered to them in line with their party’s industrial, environmental, and commercial beliefs.

Law #9: Corruption “not existing” isn’t possible, in real life, or in government.

It’s nice, and idyllic, to imagine a world where every elected official represents the best interests of the citizens who elected them, not the corporations that contributed significant sums of money to pay for the ads that got them elected by misleading those citizens one way or the other. But the reality is, no matter how hard we try to elect officials who care about citizens, the environment, and the future of our planet, someone’s going to make it into office who is willing to short-sheet the Constitution, your rights, the environment, and mortgage the future of our children, children’s children, ad nauseam so that they can make money in the short term. It would be great if the officials we elect recognized that, like a dream, when you die, you can’t take the material things with you, that the best gift you can give to the future is a future. It breaks my heart to think about how the true patriots that fought, and those who died, in the Revolutionary War, would hang their head in shame to see how low career politicians today will sink to get re-elected and retire wealthy. But until we collectively elect a better government, we have to communicate with our representatives, tell them when we disagree with them, and remind them who put them there – and who will remove them from office if they don’t start representing the interests of American citizens – both present and future.

Law #10: The Constitution is not a panacea.

The documents created by, intent of, and rights outlined by, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, are key to the freedoms we have enjoyed for over 200 years. But as you can see if you look very closely at all, special interests will offer to buy, and legislators will sell, our freedoms, our rights, and the integrity that our Founding Fathers fought to outline as the foundation of our country. These documents are not enforced every day. You have to fight for them, and remind our elected officials what they were hired to stand for. These documents and what they outline are the foundation, the bedrock, of our democracy. While legislators may be willing to pass legislation that waves the finger at the Founding Fathers and what they fought for, it is up to us to remind these elected officials that in doing so, they are not representing us, or what this country was founded upon, and what it stands for.

I know. This post was kind of a downer. But frankly, I’m rather upset. I can find a handful of elected officials who are willing to represent the interest of Americans over American companies. In DC, and in Washington state, my officials are not willing to stand up to special interest money to preserve my rights, to preserve the integrity of our food, our environment, and the future of our planet – and I’m tired of it.

This fall, get to know your candidates. Turn off your damn TV during September, October and November of 2012. Seriously. Turn it off. Get off your couch, and go meet the candidates who are asking you to elect (or re-elect) them. Ask them deep, probing questions. Interview them like you were hiring them for a job that your life, and the lives of future generations depended upon. And VOTE. Vote like your vote matters in their hiring decision. Because you are hiring them, and many of the decisions they make can, and in some cases will affect the lives of everyone else on this planet – forever. Stop electing people who are willing to sell out our country on you, your family, your friends, and future generations of Americans.

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